Posted by kristen martin on August 23rd, 2010
Finding a good spot to dine out with kids is always a balancing act. Totally child-friendly spots — the kind with ho-hum food for picky palates, coloring book madness, and a mealtime-is-playtime attitude — can leave adults feeling lobotomized. Even worse: trying to make a cranky, ketchup-loving kid appreciate haute cuisine at a parent-favored establishment. We’ve compiled a list of kid-and-adult-friendly spots that strike the perfect age balance with their menus and atmospheres. We also caught up with Chip Roman (chef at seafood-centric BYOB Blackfish in Conshohocken and father of three) and Joanna Katz (owner of hot dog joint Yo Dogs and mother to two boys, ages four and and six) to get their takes on dining with kids. Click through to read Roman and Katz’s family-friendly dining advice and to see our picks for .
The first thing Katz looks for in family-friendly dining is the food, and she tries to please both adults and children at Yo Dogs. “I try to make it food that is interesting for both parents and kids,” she says. “If it leans too much to one side for just kids, parents aren’t eager to go. It should be family-friendly for everyone.” Katz takes her own advice by serving an array of Sabrett hot dogs ranging from standard ketchup-or-mustard-topped to classic Chicago-style to appeal to patrons of all ages. She also offers a short list of salads, and beef dogs can be switched with turkey or carrot stand-ins.
Roman, on the other hand, says that “food is not the priority” when he’s dining out with his wife and their 4-year-old, 3-year-old, and 10-week-old children. “We can always find something for the kids,” he says. What does matter is the restaurant’s atmosphere—it needs to be a loud joint, so that the general din masks any noise his kids might make. “It’s just because [the kids] scream and whatnot,” Roman says. “As long as it’s loud, we don’t feel like we’re going to make a huge disruption.”
Katz does agree that family-favorable restaurants need to fit more than just the food bill. “I look at the demeanor of the staff and how the restaurant is set up and see if kids are welcome,” Katz says. “It doesn’t have to just be a kid’s menu — it can be a way in which they welcome you.” She also points out that dining out can be an opportunity to introduce your kids to new foods, whether they’re on a kids menu or not. “I do like different food options — sometimes they’ll have fried clam strips or something like that, and I’ll talk my kids into trying them,” she says.
What about if your kid has a meltdown mid-meal? “The hardest thing is when you’re in a restaurant and there’s nowhere to go and the tables are tight,” Katz says. “I like to eat at restaurants that have interesting stuff around — like a courtyard outside or things on the walls — something that you can get up from the table, walk away, and distract the kids with.”
Roman agrees that distraction is key to a tantrum-free family night. “My wife is the master—she’ll bring coloring books and Etch-a-Sketches,” he says. “It’s almost like defensive dining—we know what we’re in for.” Food can be the ultimate distraction, as kids quiet down when they’re eating. So, Roman makes sure to always order for and feed his children first; he also serves children first at Blackfish.
The most important aspect of making a family night out manageable is practice. “Part of it is starting to take your kids out at a young age, so they get used to the idea that this is how we behave when we go out to eat,” Katz says.
Blackfish, 119 Fayette Street, Conshohocken, 610-397-0888
Yo Dogs, 1014 East Willow Grove Avenue, Wyndmoor, 215-233-3647
Our Guide for Kid Friendly Restaurants Updated 5/11/2012
The Fountain at the Four Seasons
The Fountain? Yes the Fountain at the Four Seasons offers a children’s menu for breakfast lunch and dinner. Entrees include herb-grilled chicken strips or a salmon filet for your budding foodie.
Fountain at the Four Seasons, One Logan Square Philadelphia PA 19103-6933, 215-963-1500
Reading Terminal Market
Lots of choices for kids and adults with exciting atmosphere. Down Home Diner has a simple kids menu for picky eaters. Tours of the market make it an event.
Reading Terminal Market, 12th and Arch, 215-922-2317
Best of Philly 2011 winner for Kid’s Menu in a Grown-up Restaurant offers plenty of choices for children and parents.
Marathon Grill, 16th and Sansom Street, 215-569-3278
1818 Market Street, 215-561-1818
19th and Spruce Street, 215-731-0800
The Little Treehouse
This Chestnut Hill hideout is a haven for toddler-toting parents. The bright, supervised play area offers old-school wooden toys for tots to climb on; parents can hang in the adjacent café and nosh on prosciutto panini and organic snacks. There’s also a menu of kid-friendly food like pasta with butter (the combination that appeases all picky eaters). Plus, parents can take advantage of the café’s free wi-fi while they watch their kids romp.
The Little Treehouse, 10 West Gravers Lane, Chestnut Hill, 215-247-3637
Honey’s Sit ‘n Eat
For local-conscious parents who want good brunch for themselves and a solid kids menu. They also apparently have lots of high chairs.
Honey’s Sit ‘N Eat, 800 N 4th Street, 215-925-1150
2101 South Street, 215-732-5130
Stephen Starr’s homage to Brady Bunch-era American cuisine offers a menu that will please both kid and adult palates. Those of smaller stature will enjoy baked macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, and standard burgers; parents can pick pistachio-crusted tilapia or Bubbe’s beef brisket. Plus, the kitschy décor will allow you to introduce the phrase “shag carpeting” into your child’s lexicon.
Jones, 700 Chestnut Street, 215-223-5663
Earth Bread and Brewery
This Mount Airy joint takes its name seriously — they’re eco-friendly, the menu is filled with hearth-baked flatbreads, and they brew beer on-site. It’s popular with local-conscious grown ups and the swing set set alike: the flatbreads feature homemade mozzarella and range from simple tomato-and-cheese combos to tapenade-topped crusts, and there is even a “child’s appetizer” of fruit and veggies with peanut butter. And, alongside their microbrews, Earth Bread and Brewery recently started serving house-made sodas like sarsaparilla and ginger ale. Warning from parents-who’ve-dined-there: the service can be painfully slow for kids.
Earth Bread and Brewery, 7136 Germantown Avenue, 215-242-6666
Dock Street Brewery
This Cedar Park neighborhood hangout offers family-friendly wood-fired pizzas for picky kids (plain Americana pie with tomato sauce and mozzarella) and foodies (fig jam with gorgonzola and apple smoked bacon) alike. The house-made brews are a perk for parents.
Dock Street Brewery, 701 South 50th Street, 215-726-2337
Mama Palma’s is the kind of pizzeria that stocks sippy cups for their smaller patrons — they’re used to the influx of neighborhood toddlers. The thin-crust pies, though, aren’t Chuck-E-Cheese-y in the slightest. Brick oven-fired with a bevy of toppings to choose from (herbed sausage! Caramelized onions!), the pies are bound to please every member of the family. Service is quick, keeping crankiness to a minimum. And, the polenta bread appetizer deserves its own trip—the combination of crispy flatbread, smooth polenta, sweet peppers and corn, salty cheese, and pine-y rosemary is insanely satisfying.
Mama Palma’s, 2229 Spruce Street, 215-735-7357
Pietro’s Coal Oven Pizzeria
Coal oven pizza with adventurous toppings and grown-up dishes. Children’s menu sticks with classics, cheese ravioli, mozzarella sticks, and pasta.
Pietro’s Coal Oven Pizzeria, 1714 Walnut Street, 215-735-8090
121-123 South Street, 215-733-0675
140 W. Route 70, Evesham NJ 08053, 856-596-5500
The Pop Shop
The Pop Shop serves crowd-pleasing diner food, but it’s not your standard burger-and-fries joint. The 200-item menu is filled with eclectic spins on comfort food, like 31 different varieties of grilled cheese and build-your-own (beef or veggie or chicken) burgers. They have special menus for big (under 12-years-old) and little (under 5-years-old) kids, and plenty of eats for parents, too. A bonus—the diner is focused on made-from-scratch fare.
The Pop Shop, 729 Haddon Avenue, Collingswood, NJ, 856-869-0111
Take your children back to a time even before when you were around with old-fashioned desserts and floats at this classic Old City ice cream spot.
Franklin Fountain, 116 Market Street, 215-627-1899
Franklin Square is kiddie heaven—old-fashioned carousel, miniature golf, playground, and a Stephen Starr-owned burger stand for when all that playing turns to hunger. SquareBurger serves classic no-fuss burgers on Martin’s Potato Rolls. If your tots turn up their noses at ground beef, there are also chicken fingers, hot dogs, and fries. Oh, and those Best of Philly TastyKake shakes.
SquareBurger, Franklin Square, 200 North 6th Street
The Main Line iteration of Elevation Burger — which takes free-range, grass-fed, and organic to the level of nation-wide franchise — serves thin patties and shoestring fries cooked in olive oil. Order a single-patty burger for your kids, a double-patty version for yourself, and still feel good about (and after) eating fast(ish) food.
Elevation Burger, 50 East Wynnewood Road, 610-645-7704
Serves complimentary baby food to families and a classic kids menu, and a long menu with bigger portions for adults. Bensalem and Turnersville locations have an arcade and mini-golf.
Nifty Fifty’s, 1900 MacDade Blvd at Route 420, Folsom, PA 19033, 610-583-1950
2491 Grant Ave. at Roosevelt Blvd. Philadelphia, PA 19114, 215-676-1950
2555 Street Road, Bensalem, PA 19020, 215-638-1950
1310 Blackwood & Clementon Rd., Clementon, NJ 08021, 856-346-1950
4670 Route 42, Turnersville, NJ 08012, 856-875-1950
The BRGR Joint
The burgers are grease-free and fresh at this tattoo parlor-themed restaurant. The spicy-smoky chili is a nice addition to adult burgers and fries; there are “lil’” burgers for kiddie appetites, too. Also kid-friendly — the fries are cooked in canola oil instead of peanut oil, easing allergy anxieties.
The BRGR Joint, 1011 West Lancaster Avenue, Bryn Mawr, 484-380-3465
The staff at this Persian restaurant is especially attentive to kids — they’re known to dole out free desserts to little patrons. Turn a blind eye to the lack of atmosphere, order a kabob platter, and revel in a pleasant night out with the kids.
Caspian Grille, 539 Germantown Pike, Lafayette Hill, 610-834-7660
Okay, it’s not for everyday dining, but this chocolate smorgasbord is a child’s dream — it’s a true-life stroll through Willy Wonka’s workshop, minus the chocolate river and plus pipes that pump chocolate through the dining room. The kids’ menu is in defiance to the adage “don’t play with your food” — it features paint-your-own smiling pizza (with tomato sauce and toppings) and a whole lot of “ketchup paint”; the sweet side’s got choco-burgers and pizzas and waffles and bagels. Adults can blot out the cocoa insanity with cocktails — they have a liquor license.
Max Brenner, 1500 Walnut Street, 215-344-8150
Chef-owner Walter Staib is a kid-friendly fellow — he’s just come out with a children’s book called A Feast of Freedom, which tells tales of 18th century America dining from the viewpoint of a playful mouse. The menu at his beloved City Tavern teaches a similar history lesson — offerings like pepperpot soup and “Martha Washington-style” turkey pot pie belong to a bygone era. The children’s menu features old-fashioned food adapted to pickier tastes: cornmeal crusted chicken tenders and fries, grilled ham and cheese, and fish and chips. Plus, the costumed wait staff is bound to amuse.
City Tavern, 138 South 2nd Street, 215-413-1443
This hibachi grill takes tableside entertainment out of the realm of crayons and coloring books. The chefs will mesmerize kids with their slicing and dicing routine, and the steaming hot fried rice, noodles, filet, chicken, and shrimp makes for family-friendly fare. Benihana may be better suited for older kids, though, as all those knives could have toddlers shivering in their highchairs.
Benihana, 508 West Germantown Pike, Plymouth Meeting, 610-832-5924
5255 Marlton Pike, Pennsauken, NJ, 856-665-6320
This Main Line neighborhood spot, which is always buzzing with families, offers a wide menu comforting American fare. Parents can opt for anything from sautéed bronzino to barbeque pulled pork; kid favorites like pizza, hot dogs, and chicken fingers come with a free dessert. A plus — they can accommodate the gamut of food allergies, from peanut to gluten.
Christopher’s, 108 North Wayne Avenue, Wayne, 610-687-6558
From the Boot
This casual Italian restaurant gets crowded and doesn’t take reservations, but the kid-sized portions of spaghetti and meatballs and ravioli (and the vast menu of pizza, pasta, and standard Italian-American entrees) are worth the wait. Sit outside on a bench and sip wine while the kids play until your table is called.
From the Boot, 517 Germantown Pike, Lafayette Hill, 610-834-8680
110 East Butler Avenue, Ambler, 215-646-0123
Always filled with families, Tequila Joe’s boasts a kids menu of tacos, chicken fingers, burritos, quesadillas, and macaroni and cheese. Adults can dig into anything from queso fundido to chuletas; there’s also an extensive tequila list and a bevy of Mexican beer. The outdoor patio is a perk for restless offspring.
Tequila Joe’s, 31 Park Avenue, Oreland, 215-887-5800
Trolley Car Diner
Our Best of Philly 2009 kid-friendly dining spot, this neon-bright, 1950s-style diner has the right mix of kitsch and conventionality to please both kids and parents. The kids’ menu features chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese; adults can choose non-standard diner fare like a veggie grinder and Maryland lump crab cakes. The laid-back vibe and comfy booths are kid-friendly, as is the fact that kids eat for half price every Tuesday from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m..
Trolley Car Diner, 7619 Germantown Avenue, 215-753-1500
The Northeast Philadelphia barbecue destination offers “Piglet Meals” for kids and “Pig Out” meals that serve 4-6 for the whole family.
Sweet Lucy’s, 7500 St. Road, Philadelphia PA 19136, 215-333-9663
This West Chester BYOB takes its Rustic Italian theme seriously—they serve a classic family-style supper every Sunday night. Guests can choose two antipasti, one pasta, one entree, and one dessert from a menu featuring both kid-friendly fare (gnocchi, manicotti) and geared-to-adult plates (cioppino, duck and chicken liver pate). The family dinner is $28.95 for adults, but kids under 10 eat for $15 and kids under 3 eat free.
Avalon, 312 South High Street, West Chester, 610-436-4100
Our 2010 Best of Philly kid-friendly dining spot, Avenida doesn’t just say it’s kid-friendly. The kids’ menu is nugget-free (flat-iron steak! Pollo frito pan-roasted chicken!), and the staff talks to, sings to, and jokes with el niños—all while Mom and Dad eat grown-up food like the succulent pork pibil.
Avenida, 7402 Germantown Avenue, Mount Airy, 267-385-6857
Yes, Ikea. Plop your kiddies down in the play area, shop for absurdly cheap assemble-it-yourself furniture, and then whisk the family up to the café to nosh on similarly inexpensive Swedish meatballs, hot dogs, and sandwiches. Who knew that a furniture store could be the site of such an unharried, productive family meal?
Ikea, 2206 South Columbus Boulevard, 215-551-4532
Ways to Use Your Child to Get Discounts at the Bar
Resurrection Ale House
Mommy and Me Happy Hour, drafts $3 every Mon 1-3pm
2425 Grays Ferry Avenue, 215-735-2202
Mommy and Me Happy Hour, drafts $3 every Mon 1-3pm
2331 E. Cumberland Street, 215-425-4460
Do you have a favorite place to eat with your children? How do you keep them (and yourself) sane when dining out? Let us know in the comments!
Related Tags: Kid-Friendly